The Campaign Spot

Only One Side in American Politics Is Ready for Guilt-by-Association Accusations

From the last Morning Jolt before Christmas:

Only One Side in American Politics Is Ready for Guilt-by-Association Accusations

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

New York congressman Charlie Rangel refused to believe protesters in his own city chanted support for cop-killers, prompting an incredulous CNN host to prove the Democratic lawmaker wrong.

Rangel appeared Monday with CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield to discuss the killing of two NYPD officers on Saturday. The congressman said that he felt there was a need to discuss the problems faced by New York and its police, but that the past couple days were not, in light of the officers’ deaths, the time to talk about them.

“But it is the time, congressman,” Banfield said. “There are people who are marching through the streets calling for dead cops in New York.”

“They are not, they are not,” Rangel said dismissively.

Banfield cut to video that showed protesters chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!”

Rangel tried to backtrack, saying the protesters’ behavior is “not acceptable” and speculating that those chanting must be mentally ill. “We should condemn it,” he said, “but we shouldn’t just concentrate on that.”

Let’s assume that Rangel genuinely had not seen or heard the video of protesters using that particular chant. His obliviousness says something about his news diet, as plenty of media sources have shown the video and discussed the significance. (The term “dead cops” gets 208,000 hits in a Google News search.) Odds are good you’ve seen it or read about it more than once in the past few days. For a lot of folks on the right, that video and that chant define the recent protests. Whatever debate there may be about militarization of police forces, the circumstances when officers use deadly force, and whether police training is sufficient, some portion of protesters appear driven not by a desire for justice but by an anarchic wholesale rejection of the police’s authority and violent animosity against the forces of law and order.

But note how confident Rangel was that the claim couldn’t be true, and that the protesters couldn’t possibly have chanted such a repugnant slogan. It’s a moral impossibility to him. Whatever he had seen of the protests, the idea of their anger at the police turning into a call for violence against the police is simply unthinkable to him, until he’s confronted with video evidence otherwise.

Do you remember seeing a picture of a banner at an anti-war protest saying “We support our troops when they shoot their officers”? If you were reading conservative blogs or alternative media back in the Iraq War days, I’ll bet you saw it. In our world, it was a big deal. It revealed a conservative’s worst suspicions about the anti-war Left, that they didn’t really support the troops at all, and that they yearned to see American soldiers shooting other American soldiers.

This bit of knee-jerk denial always stuck with me:

Appearing on the program with her was talk-show host Michael Graham, who mentioned a controversial sign displayed by war protesters at a March 15 rally in San Francisco. The sign — which made the cover of this month’s Whistleblower Magazine — stated: “We support our troops when they shoot their officers.”

Garofalo responded by calling into question whether the sign in fact existed and had been part of the event.

“That one guy that had that one sign — that you’ll probably beat into the ground,” she said. “You’re going to use it over and over whether it actually existed or not. That’s what all you right-wing radio hosts do. You make s— up all the time.”

When you’re a conservative, you know that any time there’s a nut job claiming to act in the name of a cause you support — from opposing government overreach to opposition to abortion — you’ll have that figure thrown at you for the rest of time. Never mind that you’re the kind of law-abiding citizen who always uses turn signals and doesn’t remove the mattress tag; the very fact that you disagree with a liberal is a signal that you’re a dangerous extremist at heart. Liberals clearly are unprepared for this, and thus are stunned when they face the guilt-by-association charge that their rhetoric denouncing big corporations, the military, police, and so on could fuel the fires of violent anti–World Bank protests, violent Occupy protests, and so on.

The Daily Beast tries to identify the perpetrators:

Evidence from photos, videos, social-media posts and interviews suggest that a group — the New York chapter of the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee, or TMOC — might have been involved. There is no definitive proof that TMOC led the call for dead cops, but there is a web of circumstantial ties with the group at its center.

TMOC’s own social-media posts put them near the scene of the cry for police blood. Some of the slogans used that night — including “arms up, shoot back!” — are the same as the ones used by TMOC. And recently the group admitted that some of its members were arrested for allegedly assaulting police officers on the Brooklyn Bridge, just hours after the “dead cops” chant was recorded.

The bedrock of TMOC’s politics, judged by their social-media output, is hatred for police and endorsement of violence against them. The group seems to blend “black bloc” anarchist street violence with social-media campaigns. Keeping their organizing online, members can plan and incite without coming out from behind their digital masks until they hit the streets. (The group did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

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